Building Family History

Building family history one story at a time … with the right workflow. http://wp.me/pUz7q-4cD

I’ve been blogging for over ten years and one of the results is that I have a nice little collection of family stories. I had been copy/pasting them into a Scrivener project and taking advantage of its easy reorganization features to use those stories for small family history projects. Recently I’ve been using Byword [Mac – $11.99, iOS – $2.99 plus $2.99 per platform to add publishing…

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Family History Writing Platforms

Consider using a writing platform for your family history … http://wp.me/pUz7q-4Gy

Are you like me and writing your family history one story at a time as your research discovers it? I’ve watched my collection of “little stories” grow significantly over the years. Now, it’s a matter of getting all of those stories collected and organized so they can be used to create family history projects to share with my family. This is where writing platforms like Scrivener [Win & Mac – $45]…

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Archival Blogging

I love blogging! It has so many advantages for the genealogist/family historian that I can’t imagine trying to research without including a blog in the process. Not only does it allow me to write the stories of my ancestors as my research develops them, it’s also easy to update those stories when new facts come to light. And, it’s amazing how quickly that collection of family stories grows! While even the idea of tackling THE FAMILY HISTORY is overwhelming, blogging “little stories” is a joy.

Blogs are also cousin magnets. Even if your blog stats show few visitors reading your posts, the search engines are keeping a sharp eye on even the smallest blog and will deliver a research cousin in a heartbeat when their search matches your content. Then there is the commenting system included in most blog platforms which have turned blogs into community centers where people gather to share information and inspiration.

There is one issue that has been a concern – a rather serious concern. Most blog platforms have limited backup capabilities and trying to move content from one platform to another is a nightmare. And, there’s the dreaded shutdown notice giving users a short period of time to grab their work before the platform is taken down.

How do you protect your work from crashes, shutdowns and old technology? Here are a few ideas for developing “archival quality” blog posts.

Writing Platforms

This article was written using the Byword [Mac – $9.99, iOS – $4.99] text editing app. It supports Markdown making it a lot easier to incorporate HTML code especially when writing on a mobile device. It also includes an optional Publish feature – a $4.99 in-app purchase. With it you can publish your Byword files to WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Evernote and Scriptogram. Byword is just one of a growing number of editing and journaling apps that support blog publishing. Not only do they make it easier to write articles, you also maintain archived copies of them on your desktop. This is handy when you decide you want to turn some or all of those articles into a published book.

Writing apps that support Markdown have another advantage . . . they produce archival quality text. Unlike word-processing apps, each with its own proprietary data structure, Markdown apps save your stories as plain text with simple codes to define formatted elements like bold, italics, bullet points and more. We all have experienced unreadable “orphan” documents created with software that no longer exists. Plain text hasn’t changed since the beginning of the digital age. Using Markdown insures that future generations will be able to read your stories.

In addition to Byword, you can also take advantage of a number of journaling applications like WinJournal – $40 and MacJournal [Mac – $40, iPad – $3.99] as well as desktop blog editors like Microsoft’s free Live Writer and Blogo [Mac – $30]. Note that not all journaling and blog-editing apps support Markdown.

There’s another advantage to using a writing platform for your blog posts. As your collection of stories grows, you’ll find it very easy to reorganize and repurpose those articles into all kinds of family history publications. For example, you could pull out all the articles on family members who served in the military to create a Veterans Day (November 11th) memory project. Use them to commemorate a special anniversary or honor someone who has passed away.

You’ve done the heavy lifting – researching and writing each story – with your blog posts. Now you can enjoy the fun part of family history publishing – turning those stories into beautiful treasures.

Ulysses for Blogging

This week the Ulysses writing platform (Mac – $44.99 & iOS – $24.99) released an update that includes publishing to WordPress blogs – both those hosted at WordPress.com and self-hosted sites. It even supports multiple blogs! Also included are many of the WordPress options you use regularly, including: save a post as a draft , publish it immediately or schedule it for later set categories and tags…

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Ulysses for Blogging

This week the Ulysses writing platform (Mac – $44.99 & iOS – $24.99) released an update that includes publishing to WordPress blogs – both those hosted at WordPress.com and self-hosted sites. It even supports multiple blogs!

Also included are many of the WordPress options you use regularly, including:

  • save a post as a draft , publish it immediately or schedule it for later
  • set categories and tags
  • include excerpts and featured images
  • set post formats
  • send it to WordPress as HTML or Markdown (WordPress supports Markdown)
  • preview your post in Ulysses.

Once you’ve finished a post, click the Export icon in the top toolbar. Choose the Publishing option and the blog you want to publish to. When you click the Publish button, Ulysses will display the options panel.

At the top of the panel are the standard options for your post – title, category, tags, status, etc. Scroll down to view more options including excerpt and featured image. Once everything is set the way you want it, click the Publish button.

That’s it!

Moving between Ulysses on your desktop and mobile devices is a breeze too. Now it’s easy to add photos from you iPhone or iPad to a post.

As you can see in the first screenshot, it’s quite easy to find the Publishing function on Ulysses’ desktop version. It took a bit of hunting on the iPad to find what I needed. Begin by tapping the Share icon in the toolbar.

Regardless of what you see in the bar at the top of the screen (Publishing in this example), tap the down icon to its right to display options. If Publishing is not the Format option in the Export Settings panel, tap the angle icon on the right and select Publishing. Here I have several blog accounts already set up in Ulysses. Tap the Add Account item at the bottom of the panel to set up your blog. Account setup is quick and easy and you only have to do it once.

With your blog selected as the export option, tap the cloud icon at the far right of the top bar. It will display the options panel you see below. Once you’ve assigned title, category, tags and the other items you want, tap publish.

I’m sending my articles as drafts while I get used to the process and results. So far, I’m quite impressed with this new feature. Now I’ll have “desk copies” of my posts without spending the time cutting and pasting articles and images from place to place. As my collection of posts grows in Ulysses, it will be easy to rearrange and repurpose them into other publications.